We bagged orders worth Rs. 200 crore in digital solutions last year: Dr. Pratap Nair, President & CEO, Ingenero

We work with process manufacturers and provide a combination of software as well as associated services for achieving operational excellence

  • June 10, 2024

Industry trends with respect to digital transformation solutions?

In the last few years, Industry 4.0 revolution has been taking place and there are a lot of digital technologies that have been spawned from this revolution. There have been a lot of new software and analytical tools, all of which has been made possible because of higher computational and storage capabilities and communication speed. 

Early adopters have found out that just adoption of technology is not going to really provide them value unless there is proper monetization and utilization of these technologies to actually solve business problems. With learning from failures by early adopters, a lot of companies are now focusing more on getting value out of these technologies. 

Both globally and in India, we are beginning to see companies realizing that people and processes are equally important in addition to technology. Involving the right people with industry domain expertise is necessary, to restructure work processes to harness these technologies, to improve efficiency, safety, reliability, ease of working, etc. 

Percentage of companies opting for new digital technologies? 

When we first started deploying these digital solutions, there were very few MNCs who were willing but today, almost everyone in this industry wants to do something and explore. Globally, they are in different phases at various levels of advancement but almost everyone is looking at it positively. Here in India, industry players including refiners are exploring and trying to see what they can do in this area. More than 80% of the people are at least trying to put some sort of digital element in place while just 10-15% have actually set up some real applications. At the same time, one would see a higher percentage of adoption in the western world and in the Middle East. 

How do you see deployment of AI based engineering solutions?

AI is a key component of value generating digital solutions.  I would call such digital technology based solutions relevant to our industry as Applied AI solutions. Applied AI helps in achieving more objectives, faster and better and in automating mundane tasks. It provides augmented intelligence, for making better decisions, maybe more optimally. It also enables faster learning, ability to create new revenue streams, better collaboration, better user experience and enhanced efficiency, safety, reliability and all this in a more sustainable manner. 

Do you see new technologies like ChatGPT being incorporated for industrial applications?

Ever since it was introduced in the market last year, ChatGPT has helped to bring a lot of focus on digital and more specifically AI. In our industry too, there is a lot of merit and value being created to utilize some of the Machine Learning tools for analysis and ChatGPT for information generation. Companies are trying to figure out how they can utilize ChatGPT to find easier ways to interact with the machine. 

Earlier one had to type something and do things physically but here you are able to sit back, ask questions, maybe voice questions or just a prompt or series of prompts to get the answers. It's the next level of being able to interact with the machine and extract value. 

ChatGPT has helped this whole area and the applications are still evolving. There are all types of applications where ChatGPT can be used in a modified way. It can be done using retrieval and augmented generation. We have to remember that it is one portion of bigger set of AI technology applications. 

Ingenero has been promoting IngeneroX (Ingenero’s digital solutions). Do you see solutions catering to sustainability, innovation, supply chain, process, and manufacturing? 

IngeneroX is a suite of Applied AI based solutions that help us to make better decisions in the supply chain and Manufacturing. It includes data collection and handling, analysis and intelligence generation, communication through more intuitive visualization of results, prescribed actions and implementation of actions.  We have been deploying IngeneroX solutions for almost eight years.  

The solution helps in making better plans and reacts quicker to changes that happen in the marketplace through optimal planning. In terms of innovation, one is able to build a model for the manufacturing process, supply chain process or any of the other business processes using a digital twin, which helps speed up the innovation process 

The digital twin traditionally was based on purely fundamental models but today a hybrid of fundamental models and data-driven models are possible with machine learning. Hence with this digital twin, one is able to be more innovative. It offers a clearer picture of what is happening in terms of level of emissions, for example, and helping us to make appropriate changes to lowering them.

 How will Ingenero solutions help companies with respect to digital transformation?

We work with process manufacturers and provide a combination of software as well as associated services for achieving operational excellence. There is a lot of generic foundational software that is available in Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning but one has to combine it with people and process. Our focus is to provide a solution that will actually help in certain areas like safety, reliability, sustainability and efficiency. It is more proactive and it is a lot safer to operate these facilities. If something is going wrong it will be able to fix it. In terms of production, one can do remote tracking, guiding of production reliability, better yields with its efficiency, better recoveries, better conversions, cost efficiency, energy efficiency, and much better sustainability. 

Solutions provided by Ingenero? 

Broadly, I can divide solutions we provide into three verticals for the process industry. These are: design engineering, operations engineering, digital solutions for both design and operations engineering that includes Efficiency, Reliability, Safety and Sustainability.  

On design engineering, we get involved right from the conceptual stage to processing engineering skills and then going into the early decision phase followed by taking it all the way through construction commissioning. So, while we are involved in each of these stages but our core strength is conceptual design and operations engineering. 

Ingenero has been providing complete systems with validation and mitigation services to ensure that clients are safe and compliant with all API and OSHA regulations. Solutions under this category?

In whole area of process safety, each country has its own regulatory body. OSHA in the US took a lead and it became a template for others to follow. The US was the first to make a lot of things mandatory including process safety management. It has a set of 14 elements and with time it has evolved. The Centre for Chemical Process Safety which is part of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers is again emulated by regulatory bodies across the globe. They have come up with a little more practical risk based approach with 20 elements. 

We really provide services to make sure these elements can be followed. For example, we do safety audits, management of change, pressure relief system adequacy checks, flare load adequacy, anomaly detection, SIL, LOPA among other services. 

In the next 2 years, Ingenero will be celebrating its 25th year. What's your target for this special occasion?

We have been actually deploying automated digital solutions in the past ten years. Earlier, we were providing a lot of operations support, but today we have automated software using applied AI doing end to end things. In the first year, we started conceptualizing and putting digital solutions in place. And in the next nine years, we deployed our solutions at 50 plus sites. We have about 500 plus use cases in five different regions including the US, Middle East, India, and Asia Pacific. We have worked with refineries, petrochemicals, and midstream. The type of use cases that were covered include profitability, reliability, safety, efficiencies, energy sustainability, waste management, and water management. 

Orders bagged and executed in FY 2023-24 both in Chemical and Petrochemical?

In addition to proof of concept and pilots, last year we covered about 30 sites.  That’s the volume of digital business we are doing and it is continuously growing, in addition to the work we do in design engineering and operations support, including safety. 

Company’s performance in FY 2023-24? Growth that you foresee in FY 2024-25?

Being a privately held company, we don't reveal revenue and profit numbers, I would like to mention that we bagged orders worth Rs. 200 crore in digital solutions last year. Last year, we saw a 60% growth and we have been growing at almost 20% to 25% consistently. At the same time, we have been flowing back a significant portion of our profits back into the company for development and that's why we've been able to really come up with a lot of these solutions. 

Given the current visibility, we continue to see the type of growth today that we have seen in the last couple of years and expect good growth in the next year or two. We are very bullish about things in all three categories but digital has really taken the lead. At the same time we also see a good amount of growth in engineering as well as safety. We have been doing a lot of sustainability engineering work with several customers. We are seeing new projects and interestingly, these are happening in the Middle East, even more than the West. 

Manpower recruitment plan for the next two years?

When we first started and built our company, our core strength was all kinds of specialized process engineering type of work. A lot of our people had operations experience and it was a very unique combination of people with operations shop floor experience as well as design engineering, and technical, analytical, and software. Comparatively, the group has evolved now with 50 percent of this core team involved with digital solutions. It is a diverse team with domain experts with experience in process, operations, process modelling, and software architecture. Another 25 percent is in the more traditional engineering both Process and multidisciplinary engineering. Remaining 25 percent is focuses on safety and sustainability. 

We have a very active hiring process and anticipate 40-50 percent growth in manpower. We expect to be adding 100 to 200 resources in India itself. 

Ingenero has been perfecting robust and reliable Machine Learning models. How many of these models you have perfected?

There are a lot of generic foundation models and ML algorithms in the market and a lot of people think that they can just use them easily for various applications but that is far from the truth. There is a lot of specialized engineering that is required to sustainably monetize these.  Over time we have built a lot of modules which require lesser specialized engineering even for more complex unit operations like distillation columns, reactors, and furnaces. However, specialized engineering is still an important piece in any applied AI implementation in our industry. 

Any modules for enhancing process manufacturing applications?

Our digital twins don’t just update us on the current scenario but also have the ability to go back into history and run scenarios from the past. This is made available to people at the plant or anywhere else. That's the beauty of the Internet of Things (IoT) and ability to remotely access. 

Today a lot of it is driven either through dynamic dashboards or even voice activated chatbots. But over time, we are trying to evolve it into being like an agent where the machine will go do searching, computations and present the possible solutions for the complications. 

We have done dynamic benchmarking for the entire facility, whether it's an individual asset or the entire plant, or even for the asset level, we have now specialised modules for optimizing the control systems that are already there and improving  asset health for furnaces, distillation columns, compressors, pumps, heat exchangers. We have been fairly unique in being able to modularize it and actually being able to deploy them.  Some examples of modularized Apps we have successfully deployed are: 

APCPro (Optimize underperforming APC controllers for improved performance and efficiency).

OptimaX (Dynamically identify best operating condition and close the gap).

ActionX (Real time identification of process deviations and prescriptions to rectify).

AgentX (GenAI based conversational application with the digital solution for proactive interactions). 

Partners for providing complete AI based solutions?

While some of the software solutions that we build by and large are proprietary to us, we also have partnered with Honeywell, AspenTech, IIT Bombay, Gent University, and others. Wherever necessary we partner with others as we don't want to really reinvent the wheel in certain areas. But when providing proprietary solutions, we package it around open algorithms. 

How do you see competitive landscape?

In Applied AI, there's a lot of noise around the foundational models and generic models. However, we are focused on value addition beyond these models and are very specialized. We provide a comprehensive Applied AI solution where we have actually deployed the technologies and have been fairly unique. In terms of competition, we have a subset of the end to end Applied AI technology areas being addressed by a few companies, providing simulators hardware data platforms, Business Intelligence software, making this a very confusing space for a lot of customers. We have fairly unique set of offerings that ensures value generation and have taken a good lead with a lot of very good applications. 

In the design engineering space, there are a lot of engineering companies. So our claim to fame there is more strength in process.  

In process safety again, there are very few players in India and we have a unique edge having been part of the safety reviews and audits of almost every refinery in the US over the last 15 years, in one way or the other. We have tremendous experience and are now trying to combine it with digital solutions. 

On sustainability, we have been actively supporting clients with digital solutions to do the best they can with existing assets.  We have also been supporting decarbonization technology companies with design engineering.  We are also in the process of partnering with some of the CSIR facilities and some of the institutes where some very good work is happening. We are trying to work jointly on a few of these technologies and ultimately take these to our customers.

Register Now to Attend NextGen Chemicals & Petrochemicals Summit 2024, 11-12 July 2024, Mumbai